Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer hands-on preview

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks set to be the most significant entry in the multi-million selling franchise since 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Having benefited from a three-year development cycle—an unprecedented feat by the series’ standard up to this point—the upcoming futuristic military shooter looks set to bring a wealth of innovation and tweaks to a rapidly aging series paradigm. Significantly, Advanced Warfare is powered by a brand new engine, which is a far cry from merely iterating upon the tech that has powered pretty much every title since 2005’s Call of Duty II.

It’s not all smoke and mirrors, either. At a recent press event in London, PSU was lucky enough to go hands-on with the game’s multiplayer component—which included a brand new map—and witness new single-player content, delivered via a presentation by Sledgehammer Co-Founder, Glen Schofield. In fact, Schofield was most emphatic about the changes that Advanced Warfare’s increased dev cycle has facilitated, which includes everything from its Hollywood talent-backed campaign, the verticality afforded by the new Exo suit, to the dynamic tweaks made to player customization. 

While the single-player remained off-hands, Schofield did treat attendees to an explosive new stage from the campaign. The pre-recorded gameplay offered a succinct look at what expect from Advanced Warfare’s story-based shenanigans, and featured intense gun battles (some of which were fast-forwarded in the interest of time) punctuated by some Hollywood-esque set pieces, such as having the player character leaping on top of a moving bus and hopping from vehicle to vehicle, while blasting incoming foes. These blood-pumping segments also look keen to keep gamers on their toes, as a couple of one-button prompts were noticeable, such as stopping you from being scrapped off the asphalt while hanging precariously from a car door inches above the ground. In short, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a blockbuster franchise such as Call of Duty. The Exo Suit also got a look in, with its fancy gadgets allowing the marines to scale walls and map targets for one-shot kills through solid brick walls. And, while it’s impossible to gauge the quality the campaign from a 15-minute or so teaser, there’s no denying that every cent spent developing Advanced Warfare over the past three years appears to be up on screen flexing its next-gen muscles. 

After strapping on a pair of meaty headphones, we delved into a spot of Team Deathmatch to get us warmed up. Even familiar slaughter fests such as this felt fresh and invigorating thanks to the new mechanics; the Exo Suit is a game-changer, whether it be increased maneuverability with the double-jump or side dash to avoid incoming fire, to the more sophisticated cloaking and shield functionalities. It’s far from a gimmick to say the least, and you’ll find yourself having to adopt new tactics when you’re faced with an opponent who takes advantage of the new verticality on offer.

Stages also reflect the new dynamics of play on offer, and I found myself scaling environments from top to bottom to try and find that sweet sniping spot or ledge to leap down on unsuspecting foes. This isn’t just a run-and-gun effort; you’ll need to exploit your Exo Suit’s full abilities in order to come out on top, as well as taking advantage of every nook and cranny each map has to offer. You’ll also bag rewards for kills used in conjunction with your Exo Suit abilities, such as filling a bad guy with hot lead as you hover above them. Of the levels we battled through included a laboratory, an industrial complex, a beach devastated by the effects of a tidal wave, and a posh gaff that looks like a millionaire’s retirement home. 

After Team Deathmatch, we also had a crack at some fan-favorites including Hot Zone, Kill Confirmed, plus a brand new mode called Uplink. Here, two teams must battle over the acquisition of a data ball before slam-ducking in the opposing team’s uplink to score points—sort of like a high-tech version of basketball, only to get the ball off the opposing team you put a bullet between their eyes. Obviously, this is a team effort; you’ll need to provide cover to the chap with the data ball, and the other team will do everything they can do subvert your efforts. Fortunately, if you have the ball you aren’t completely defenceless and can lob it an enemy to temporarily incapacitate them, as well as throw it to other team members to keep a rhythm going. Chucking the ball into the uplink will yield one point, while actually leaping into it, ball in hand, will generate double points.

New to Advanced Warfare this time around includes a new loot drop system, Supply Drops, which you’ll acquire as you play through the multiplayer’s copious and diverse range of game modes. These drops contain everything from new clobber to weapon upgrades, allowing you to further customize your chosen character beyond the norm. Those of you who favor a more personal experience will find that Advanced Warfare’s customizable characters should suffice, with everything from gear, weapons, gender, and other such features available to tinker with at your leisure. You can also equip perks to augment your chosen Exo Suit ability; for example, I picked increased battery life, allowing me to activate my cloaking ability for longer periods.

Despite all the new gizmos and high-tech wizardry, Advanced Warfare doesn’t compromise the series’ bread-and-butter mechanics. Gun play remains as satisfying and seamless as it’s always been, and the addition of the Exo Suit doesn’t become obtrusive in terms of control scheme; activating the double-jump is a simple case of hitting X, while special functions—in my case, the shield and cloaking device—are mapped to one of the shoulder buttons. Furthermore, the screen remains far less cluttered than past iterations, as all relevant data is now mapped to the mini-HUD on your weapon—simply pop into aim mode and you’ll be treated to all the info you’ll need. For a technical perspective, our hands-on build suffered from no discernible pop-up or frame rate dips, and in terms of visuals, it’s unquestionably one of the most polished first-person shooters I’ve played to date. 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is due out on November 3 for PS4, PS3, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.